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An idea for United
This may sound a tad insane but why don’t United make a move for Welbeck?
I have to say I’ll be very sad to see him go but he only has a year left on his contract and I always felt he fitted a Mourinho team better than Alexis.
He’s a hard worker, a good age, grew up at United and we all know Mourinho prefers workhorses to the more creative players.
He’d also be pretty cheap – £15m gets this done I reckon. Roll on Danny playing right wing back at the next World Cup.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
As a United Fan I am by no means on team Jose with the way he has treated certain players, especially ones who are not over 6’2 and offer very little but physical presence. But I think he has been more than fair in terms of the minutes offered to Rashford, what we need is performances when given a chance such as against Liverpool become the norm, not the exception. I don’t see too much improvement in his game since his debut despite over 100 appearances now, I don’t doubt his work ethic but I see more time trying to be Ronaldo taking free kicks than development on his all round game. Mourinho has done his bit for Rashford, its time for Rashford to deliver consistently when given the chance. He maybe only 20 but he has played a lot of football now.
Arsenal don’t belong
Big Six? What are you talking about?
Since Arsenal last won the Premier League in 2003/2004 there have been four winners in 14 seasons, one of which is Leicester City.
5 x Chelsea
5 x United
3 x City
By comparison, the same 14 seasons in across Europe;
Spain; 3 winners; 9 Barca; 4 Real Madrid; 1 Atletico
Italy; 3 winners; 8 Juventus (04/05 calciopoli); 5 Inter; 1 Milan
Germany; 4 winners; 10 Bayern Munich; 2 Borussia Dortmund; 1 VfB Stuttgart; 1 VfL Wolfsburg
UEFA CL; 8 winners
4 Real Madrid
1 Bayern, United, Chelsea, Milan, Inter, Liverpool
Of the 70 titles available in Europe’s top league’s over the last 14 years; 63 have been won by 7 teams.
The remaining 7 titles have been won by Liverpool, Stuttgart, Wolfsburg, Leicester and Atletico (1 each) and Milan (2).
To labour to a conclusion, there is no top six in the Premier League.
Stijn (wikipedia stats to prove any point) Amsterdam
Build around Bale
In the aftermath of Ronaldo’s ‘hollywood’ transfer to Juventus comes the very interesting plot of how Real will go about replacing the impact of a player who contributed 40-50 goals a season for pretty much 6-7 years running. Knowing Perez and Real Madrid, the smart money would be to bet on a household signing coming in for similar or more money than the Ronaldo transfer to bring the glitter and spotlight back on the club, since Juve are totally hogging all the attention this transfer window and have elevated themselves to a new level of global following (incredible considering they were already established as probably one of the top 5 clubs in the world, Ronaldo has truly transcended the sport).
In my opinion, give the damn keys to Gareth Bale and let him take this Real team on a joy ride in his own style. I absolutely believe that Gareth has the ability to take up the gaping hole left by Ronaldo. He easily has 30-40 goals a season in his locker, and with the confidence of regular starts he may produce Ronaldo numbers. His goal record at Real Madrid thus far is outstanding considering he has never spent a full season (Other then his first) as an undisputed starter. He is an excellent finisher from close and long range, and is a world-class header of the ball as well. Physical traits probably rank amongst the top 2/3 in the world, I cant think of another player in world football with the combination of pace and power that he possesses. He appears to have a hungry mentality and ambition to lead the line and be the main man of the team (His performances for Wales and Tottenham, plus his performances during Ronaldos absense from the team all examples).
Real should put their faith in the investment they made in him initially which was certainly to replace Ronaldo eventually, They probably didnt expect to get the Mileage out of Ronaldo that they did. Regardless, Bale is ready to go now and fulfill the destiny he was chasing when he made the move 5 years ago. With regards to his injury worries, Real should sign a decent striker who can rotate and fill in, plus Asensio is already there who is another spearhead in the waiting and may also turn out to be the Ronaldo replacement Real need.
Wickyleaks (Messi is the GOAT)
From 16 conclusions, “Those saying that England only beat Tunisia, Panama, Colombia and Sweden are missing the point. Three of those four are exactly the sort of opponent that England have struggled against in the past”.
Is Daniel not the one missing the point on this one? Didn’t England struggle past Tunisia and Colombia? A last minute goal and a win on penalties doesn’t scream domination . From what I can recall England usually beat Sweden in major tournaments too.
In the end England beat 3 average teams, they can’t help who they play but the lack of perspective from fans and pundits is mind boggling. Chances are at the euros England wont have such an easy run and will resort to their long ball tactics when put under pressure. as they did against Croatia.
Maybe England have progressed but not to the extent everyone is claiming. The players are likeable of course but the last time England played Tunisia, Colombia and Sweden in World Cups previous to Russia 2018, they won. So why is it labelled as progress if it happened before?
Paul, exiled in Sydney
The next crop
Further to F365s Euros Ladder and Steve’s mail this morning I think the squad should be picked on a mix of the best we have available but to do that players need to be developed over a tournament cycle to ensure players have international experience and nous. Here are a couple of players I hope kick on to really boost the current crop:
– Nat Chalobah. Loved by Southgate and a dead cert to win a cap at the next international group. Seems to be a hard working Henderson esque No.6 with slightly better passing. Would be much better than the cumbersome Dier if he can get a season of great performances under his belt.
– Joe Gomez. Did anyone get the feeling that Walker wouldn’t be playing at CB if there was a pacey option who could play there naturally? Whilst it might have meant Trippier missing out, having a natural CB in the back 2 would have eliminated some of the goals – including Tunisia’s penalty foul and Croatia’s equaliser. Gomez has been unlucky with injuries at Liverpool but showed signs he could be a top player and stepped up well during his international performances.
– Ryan Sessegnon. If the boy can step to the Premier League then there is a very clear opening on the left side for a player who can get up and down the young and provide a goal threat.
– Jadon Sancho. Given most of the youth teams play a variant of 4-3-3 it will be interesting to see how the many promising wide players, including Sancho, get moulded into the senior team. One sign of England progress would be able to play more than one system and Sancho can be a key part of that if he keeps getting games at Dortmund.
– Jamaal Lascelles. Whilst Kane and Henderson are the obvious picks for Captain, Lascelles offers another layer of leadership that the backline could really use. Whilst he may not be as technically adept as some of his peers, he is someone who would organise a defence when our backs are against the wall and other players mentality alters. Against Croatia we were crying out for another body to organise and get on the end of everything. Also offers a set piece threat if setpeice takers want to give Maguire’s forehead a rest.
One thing that is exciting about England is the amount of talent on the cusp of breaking through, the problem is a lot of them don’t get the chance to play in the Premier League or at trophy/European challenging side. One thing I think Southgate might try and do is use the national team as a shop window to help players get moves to elite clubs. People like Loftus-Cheek, Cook, Abraham, Solanke and Chalobah have already been given a chance to do this and I expect Foden, Woodman, Sessegnon, Sancho and Lookman et.al. will be given caps to show clubs that they can play at the highest level too. This seems to be the only way to help boost the number of English players playing for top clubs.
Deal with diving
Great mail from Andy, Birmingham on what to do with VAR going forward. Totally agree with the comment about subbing players who are rolling around: either they are injured, and should be taken off for a precautionary medical assessment for ten mins, or they are cheating, in which case their side deserves to play for that time with ten players.
The one thing that has really boiled my piss in this (incredible) World Cup (and I came of age in Italia 90) is the extent of the diving. The way the referee waved on play when Neymar threw himself to the ground against Belgium, but then did nothing in terms of punishment, was a disgrace. I even read something the other day that Premier League clubs are now coaching their youngsters to go down. Some people think this is just clever play. It isn’t. It’s cheating. Griezmann did it in the final and won a free kick that changed the game. It doesn’t matter if he was clever, or managed to start falling a millionth of a second before he was touched. He’s a cheat. That first goal should never have happened, and Croatia, who were by far the better side, could have been in the ascendancy rather than chasing a goal.
So my suggestion is simple: all suspected dives reviewed by the VAR team and result in an instant red card and six-match ban. If the pundits in the studio could see Griezmann had dived within 10 seconds, there’s no excuse for half a dozen VAR referees with umpteen screens doing the same. Such harsh punishments – particularly if accompanied by other measures, such as instant carding of any player that crowds the referee to contest a decision, followed by a red if they don’t move away immediately – would soon solve many of the histrionics we’ve seen in recent years.
The only thing (apart from Neymar pushing for an Oscars nomination) that annoyed me during the World Cup was the swarming of the referee when penalties were awarded. It’s obviously a planned approach as the ref can’t book everyone, we’d end up with the game called off because of too few players left on the pitch. With VAR coming in it’ll become a much more common sight with both teams badgering for reviews.
We complain about how VAR reviews harm the flow of the game but this swarming takes up the same amount of time and is unsportsmanlike behaviour so it needs to stop. They should introduce a rule where if there’s any swarming at all the ref books the team’s captain. Two occurrences of it and the captain is sent off. If it continues the manager is sent to the stands and faces a touchline ban.
There’s something creeping into football where teams know that the ref can’t possibly enforce all the rules as it would lead to chaos. We said that if they started awarding penalties for wrestling at corners then it’d stop. It hasn’t, it’s got worse. If the refs enforced that rule it’d end up with games finishing 10-9, all pens. Pull the captain to the side and tell him that if it happens once more, no matter who does it, the captain is getting sent off. What they need to do is hurt the clubs where it hurts – your captain gets banned and your manager gets banned. If I wanted to watch wrestling I’d watch wresting.
SC (Feeling old and grumpy now there’s no football) Belfast.
…A lot has been said in the wake of the WC regarding VAR & players complaining/making the VAR sign.
One of the guys in the office came up with a suggesstion to fix this that I’ve never considered before, and I personally, I really think it could work.
Book the captain.
The captain should be responsible for making sure his team respect the ref, if they don’t, it lands on his/her shoulders.
Player screaming in the ref’s face? Book their captain.
Player asking for a yellow card? Book their captain.
Player signalling for VAR after the referee has dismissed it? Book their captain.
Initally I would imagine this will result in a few red cards for the captains while players adjust, but if your captain is on a yellow and you need to get back into a game, are you going to scream at the ref over a throw in and potentially get your captain sent off?
Can you imagine the captain’s reaction if this did happen? They would be forced to take more control and responsibility for the behaviour of their team – how it should be.
I’m sure holes will be poked, and rightly so, but thought it might be worth discussing.
Jack (Could you imagine Roy Keane?) Belfast
There were some really good points made by Jack Saunders about handball this morning. Personally, I don’t really think that there’s any justification for leaving the handball rule as it is; it’s a deeply flawed rule that leaves every case open to interpretation by the referees, which obviously results in wholly inconsistent decisions being made – not just on a matchly basis, but even from incident to incident.
To my mind, the rule shouldn’t even consider the intention of the player when determining whether it should be a penalty or free-kick; the only determining factor should be whether or not the path of the ball was affected as a result of hitting a hand or arm (e.g. if a cross/pass changes direction, an on-target shot becomes off-target, or vice versa). Intent should, however, be used to determine whether any punishment is applied to the offending player – if it was legitimately accidental then no card would be issued, but deliberate instances should incur an appropriate booking.
It must be hugely frustrating for a striker to have a goalbound shot clip a defender’s hand or arm and subsequently miss, knowing that no action will be taken because it wasn’t done on purpose. Now that we have VAR I feel that you could properly police these incidents – with respect to both the flight of the ball and the intent of the offending player. I would also say that crosses or passes that strike an opponent’s hand/arm should only result in an indirect free-kick and not a penalty. A free shot on goal is a disproportionate reward for an attempted assist, and it does not represent a guaranteed goalscoring opportunity. Once again, VAR could assist with determining the intention of the ball-playing party (as to whether it was a cross, pass or shot).
The hardest part is ruling on a situation in which it is physically impossible for a defender to avoid the ball hitting his or her hand. If the ball is struck at a defender from less than a metre – say while defending on the goal line at a corner – but it stops the ball going into the net, wouldn’t you want to see some kind of referee intervention, as a striker? I certainly would. The most pertinent question to ask is: “was the path of the ball changed by hitting a hand/arm?”, which would surely remove all doubt as to the validity of the infraction.
While certain things still have to be down to the interpretation of the referee – violent intent, reckless behaviour etc. – something as binary as handball should have as much license for interpretation as possible. If it hits and hand or arm and affects the path of the ball then it’d be a handball. End of story.
…I do not agree with Jack’s suggestion that no-one deliberately handles the ball. They do, all the time.
Take Perisic for example. The “deliberate and intentional” act was sticking his arm out there in an unnatural position. He “deliberately” chose to do that. The referee examined the evidence (as VAR now allows) and reached the conclusion (which I agree with) that he was deliberately making his self big to cut out a potential cross (with his hand if necessary). The ball hit his hand as a result of his deliberate act so it was a penalty.
Law twelve just says deliberate act. All the other stuff that gets trotted out (was there movement of the hand to the ball, distance (i.e. the “unexpected” ball) and the position of the hand) are all factors that must be considered and will add to or detract from a claim but none are definitive.
Whether the culprits are using the correct strategy percentage-wise is a different matter entirely (if cheating, however minor, because you think you can get away with it should ever be called a valid strategy).
Before this world cup, I would have said yes, they were, that sort of offence was difficult to judge in the moment so, even though its cutting out a very low percentage change, it barely ever got called out. With VAR that balance shifts dramatically. Not unlike the whole “wrestling people to the ground” thing, VAR enables the officials to properly scrutinise what I consider to be a persistent form of cheating by playing the odds and VAR shifts those odds in the right direction. It took a few penalties for the culprits to realise they couldn’t get away with it and it basically stopped. It also takes us as viewers and the pundits to adjust to a world order where that particular offence gets rightly called up and our unspoken thresholds for how blatant a particular type of offence has to be go out the window.
Spanner in the works
Adam makes a good view points, however the “The captains must also make their review known with a “T” within 10 secs to allow play to carry on per normal (ie quick counterattacks) if a review isn’t taken.” point, I already sense captains using it late in a game to gain a tactical advantage if their team is winning if they wish to stop a Belgium v Japan style counter attack.
Club v country
This year’s world cup has been the best world cup I have ever seen. I don’t understand anyone that disagrees. So far the arguments against this world cup being the greatest in living memory seemed to be based on no ‘big’ teams playing their best football in latter stages and that the tournaments of 1970 and 1986 were better. As 1990 was my first world cup I cannot comment on the quality of earlier tournaments however in my mind none of the tournaments that I have witnessed can match in terms of goals, games, drama and excitement.
However in the same way it’s unfair to compare players from different eras, I think it’s unfair to compare world cups from different eras. I will illustrate this by comparing both players and teams over two periods 1970 to 1997 and 1998 to 2018 (it’s called irony).
Essentially, over these two periods international and domestic football have changed places.
Between 1970-1997 international football was the highest quality with teams picking players predominantly from their own national leagues. The cream of the cream was picked with high competition for places, if a goal keeper from the top domestic team failed to perform there were several other goal keepers from the other top domestic teams to pick from. International football had the highest concentration of great players playing together meaning the same teams got to world cup finals again and again whereas club football was generally more level with different teams having peaks based around a generation of great players hence many different champions league/European cup finalists.
Between 1970-1997 there were only 5 teams (Germany, Holland, Italy, Brazil and Argentina) that participated in the world Cup final.
However between 1970-1997 there were many club teams participating in the champions league final including the teams from the big 5 leagues (England, Germany, Spain, Italy and France) as well as teams from Holland, Scotland, Greece, Belgium, Sweden, Romania, Portugal and Yugoslavia.
Now let’s look at the recent period from 1998-2018.
In the world cup we have had the same 5 teams appearing in the final along with 3 new teams (France, Spain and Croatia).
Conversely from 1998-2018 the champions league final has been contested by teams from only the big 5 leagues with a single exception of Mourinho’s Porto.
For me the two have swapped around. Now you find the highest concentration of great footballers in top level European club football whereas international football being more level with different teams having peaks based around a generation of great players.
The days of international football being the highest standards are gone. To even be considered a great player now you really need to perform in the champions league not the world cup.
Again between 1970 and 1997 the two greatest players were Pele and Maradona, both players are shaped by what they did in the world cup not the champions league.
Equally the two best players form 1998-2018 are Messi and Ronaldo based on champions league with neither player ever scoring in a world cup knock out round.
In fact in today’s context it’s ludicrous to think that Pele is considered great when he never even played in Europe. Could Neymar be considered the best player in the world if he stayed playing at Santos but won a couple of world cups? Or can Dybala claim to be the best player ever if he moves to Napoli wins a couple of domestic titles along with the world cup but never actually impacts the later stages of the champions league? Of course not, no chance.
Hence when judging world cups I think we need to take into account that the competition has changed and is no longer the best quality of football and while a handful of big European teams can buy all the great players never will be.
As for the argument that the big teams not being in the later stages, I read a great mail from one of your readers last Monday stating that this Croatia team could easily be this year’s version of Italy and Belgium the new Holland. If the names of these semi-finalists was different but the quality of players exactly the same does that somehow make it a better world cup?
My final point is that I predict these trends will continue with more new teams appearing in the world cup final while only teams from the top 5 leagues getting to champions league finals. Croatia are a great team and did well to get to the final but were helped with an easy draw and no injuries to key players. I could easily have seen Uruguay or Colombia with all their best players fit and on form (James and Cavani) and the draw that Croatia had getting to the final.
Paul K, London
Man Utd monstrosity
Conscious it’s been leaked for months, but the new United home kit is twenty kinds of horrible. Worse than Nike’s gingham monstrosity in Fergie’s last season.
Can we please just go back to Umbro?
I’ve seen a few of my fellow United fans discussing various reasons for our relative lack of transfer academy so far. One of the more out-there theories was that the new women’s team was potentially drawing funds away from the transfer budget. I consider this highly unlikely, mainly because I imagine the costs of the women’s team wouldn’t be much more than a drop in the ocean in the transfer budget.
But, hypothetically, what if I’m wrong? What if the women’s team, which I support the introduction of, is directly draining a significant amount of resources from the men’s team – which is ultimately the team whose success I care about the most? That’s a difficult question for me. The women’s team is important, and I want it to succeed, but I can’t pretend I care about it anywhere near as much as the men’s one. I wouldn’t say I would be against the introduction of the women’s team in this scenario, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say it would bother me that significant resources we need to improve the team were taken away for something I’ll ultimately pay little attention to – even if others will.
What do others think? If your team wanted to introduce a women’s team, but at significant cost/detriment to the men’s one, would you still support its introduction as much as you would otherwise?